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Features : Religion & Spirituality
September 29th, 2010
Second in a series of conversations with influential author Brian McLaren

Novelist Clyde Edgerton and Rev. Eric Porterfield, pastor of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, went to speak with McLaren at his home in Maryland. In this, the second in a series of excerpts from their conversation, they talk with him about his belief that our concept of God continues to evolve over time.

September 26th, 2010
A simple prayer with a powerful message

“God, grant me the serenity…” You’ve probably heard the Serenity Prayer, whether while attending a 12-Step meeting as a member or guest, or from watching a movie or TV show with a representation of one. Recited by Christians, non-Christians and “spiritual-but-not-religious” seekers alike, the Serenity Prayer is part of our culture. This is due in large part to its adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous, from there spilling over into many recovery and self-improvement activities. Its genius is its brevity — how it says so much that is important in so few words.
But it can also become meaningless through repetition, so I want to devote a column to sharing this wonderful…

September 23rd, 2010
First in a series of conversations with influential author Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren, Protestant pastor, author and theological gadfly is one of the most influential figures associated with the Emerging Church movement, a loosely defined network made up in large part of younger evangelical Christians seeking to reinterpret traditional beliefs and practices for the 21st century. Movement participants, stressing their intellectual and spiritual diversity, think of themselves as engaged in an open-ended “dialogue” or “conversation,” much of which takes place on the internet at sites such as emergentvillage.com, where McLaren’s podcasts help set the tone.

In more than a dozen highly influential books, McLaren has championed a progressive approach to evangelicism, stressing social justice and rejecting the traditionally conservative politics of the mainstream evangelical movement. McLaren told an interviewer in 2006, “When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the Gospels.” He has worked closely with the evangelical anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis, whose Busted Halo interview can be read here.

McLaren’s politics are best understood as an outgrowth of his religious thinking. His most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, published in early 2010, sets out to reread the Bible from a 21st-century perspective, deconstructing the book’s Greco-Roman narrative, emphasizing the Jewish context of early Christian belief, and proposing a more open-ended view of Christianity’s sacred text as “an inspired library” rather than a “constitution.”

Novelist Clyde Edgerton and Reverend Eric Porterfield, pastor of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, went to speak with McLaren at his home in Maryland. This is the first of a series of excerpts from their conversation; it focuses on McLaren’s idea of “prophetic confrontation” and the difficulty of promoting social change. The entire interview can be found here.

September 7th, 2010
Get to know the Word of God

The other day I was reading in Acts 8 about Philip the Evangelist, my namesake, along with some study bible commentary on his history. Even though I was named after him, I have never read these passages before. I finally did because recently I began using a plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. 
I’ve led Bible studies, attended college-level classes on scripture, and heard hundreds of sermons about Bible passages. But until now I’ve never read it all — only the “popular bits.” Of course, I’d heard a sermon or two about Philip’s meeting a eunuch on the road to Gaza and baptizing him, but until now I’d never read about the rest of his travels or learned about…

August 22nd, 2010
Phil Fox Rose responds to readers’ questions and comments sparked by his column about gossip

My last column, about gossip, seems to have struck a nerve and inspired a lot of discussion. Since I assume that for every reader who leaves a comment or writes an email, another bunch have that same issue but don’t say anything, I decided to devote another column to the subject, highlighting questions and comments some of you raised.
Several readers asked variations on a very important question: Yes, but is this… gossip…? followed by some scenario. Let me start by reiterating something: there are situations in which it’s appropriate to talk with someone about a third person. Deciding which situations those are is where we must use discernment.
Here’s what reader Frances said by email

August 13th, 2010
Praying the Rosary Rarely, Not Regularly

August 15 is the feast of the Assumption. According to Catholic tradition, at the end of Mary’s earthly life, she was assumed body and soul into heaven. In the spirit of the day, this article looks at a form of prayer traditionally associated with Mary.…
Many people find comfort in praying a daily rosary. No matter what else changes in their lives, that circle of beads is a regular, dependable, soothing part of their normal routine.
I am not one of those people.
It’s not that I dislike the rosary. On the contrary, it’s been the catalyst for some of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my adult life. But though I’ve tried to make it part of my regular routine, somehow I can never quite keep it going. That could

July 25th, 2010
Can the concept of affirmations be reconciled with radical honesty?

A reader, Janice J. Holladay, LPC, raised a great point the other day after reading my old column on radical honesty. She had just read a book about affirmations and said:
“It seems that trying to fight a self-defeating belief system with something one knows is just a lie is not the way to go. The book suggests that you say/believe it anyway even though it’s “not yet” true. I just don’t see that lying to oneself ever serves any purpose, and we all do it enough anyway.”
I have been asked variations of the “Are affirmations lying?” question many times, and it is a common source of confusion for people new to spiritual and self-improvement work.
My answer is: It depends.…

July 6th, 2010
Currents tapes a segment with Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose's Centering Prayer group in New York

Watch the video from when Currents visited the Centering Prayer group facilitated by Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose, then read on for helpful tips about Centeering Prayer and meditation.

June 21st, 2010
Deepening your personal relationship with God through conversational prayer

I had always been fine with the “God is everything” and “There is that of God in each of us” kinds of conceptions of God, but I was finding it hard to turn my will and my life over to a concept or The Universe; and I was being told that it would really help if I could learn to relate to God in a more personal way. I’d always struggled with the idea of a God personal to me. I’d always rejected anthropomorphizations as childish.

Then a wise spiritual friend I admired, Shana, made a suggestion. She came from a rural area where people drive everywhere, and she told me how, when she was learning this herself, she’d buckle the passenger seat of the car and talk to God as if he was sitting there. Though I lived in the city without a car, I’d spent plenty of years in car culture and this visual helped me with imagining how to approach praying in a conversational way.

And praying conversationally changed my conception of God. They fed each other. As I prayed “as if” God was a person in the room with me, I found it easier to feel comforted by God’s presence. As I felt comforted by God’s presence, it became easier to relate to God any time, anywhere — to just stop in the midst of a situation and have a few words with God.

Of course, Christians have always had the person of Jesus to pray to, but I wasn’t raised with any teaching in this area, so that idea was foreign to me. It may be easier to imagine for some. But even if you can easily relate to the idea of praying to God as a person, praying conversationally, and out loud, can still seem strange or silly.

June 7th, 2010
Protect the silence in your day and consider a silent retreat this summer

“Words are very
Unnecessary.”
— Depeche Mode

There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.

When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.

The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.

That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:

We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the deepest parts of ourselves. We may be afraid to hear that ‘still small’ voice. What might it say?

Might it ask us to change?

This is the great power and the great challenge of silence: it can reveal truth. Or more accurately, it takes away our ability to run from Truth.

May 18th, 2010
Busted Halo newest podcast presents anything and everything you ever wanted to know about Catholicism

Interested in learning about the Vatican secret archives? Want to know a little bit more about Catholic superheroes? Never knew what “Diet of Worms” really referred to? Then you won’t want to miss Busted Halo’s latest addition to its podcast lineup — Facts of Faith.
Facts of Faith — available every Tuesday and Thursday, both on our homepage and through iTunes — is the fourth separate podcast we offer each week to Busted Halo visitors, joining the Busted Halo Cast, excerpts from the Sirius XM Radio Show and Fr. Dave’s Homilies.
Facts of Faith episodes are short (five to ten minute) discussions between Fr. Dave Dwyer and Fr. Larry Rice about everything and anything…

May 12th, 2010
...or how I lost my war with the Holy Days of Obligation

There’s a great scene from The Simpsons… that sums up my childhood view of church perfectly. Bart, Lisa and Homer all run out of church triumphantly on a Sunday after services have finished, shouting — and I paraphrase — Hurray! It’s the time of the week that is the longest time before we have to go to church again!
And that’s how I felt when I was younger. Once Mass was over on Sunday, that was it. I was done. I was no longer a prisoner of the Liturgy and Eucharist, tradition and ritual, dressing up and sitting up. For an entire week I had nothing to look forward to but no church.
And then a Holy Day of Obligation would roll around in the middle of the week, ruining everything.
As a kid, not only

April 21st, 2010
A message for those feeling the weight of the ongoing crisis in the Church

The following reflection was adapted from a homily given on the second Sunday of Easter April 11, 2009.…
Last Sunday there were around 3,000 people in our church to celebrate Easter. My question a week later is, “Where did they all go?” It’s too easy to simply say that the 2000 people who did not return a week later and may not return again until Christmas are “Christmas and Easter Catholics.” Is a once-or-twice visit to Church enough to satisfy one’s spiritual or ritual needs, that someone can say, “That’s enough for me”?
As a parish that tries very hard to create an environment of inclusion and acceptance where faith and beauty are interwoven, we can ask

April 12th, 2010
What Works columnist Phil Fox Rose is interviewed about being on time on NET TV and responds to reader comments

Recently, I was interviewed for the show Currents on the NET TV network about the spirituality of being on time. Watch the video right here on this page; I’ve queued it up to my segment in the show. So that seems like a good enough reason to revisit my column, “Being On Time.” I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) when this became one of the most popular What Works columns.

It was a delight to do the interview with Nathalia Ortiz, and to see the co-anchors discussing the subject with her afterwards. Their comments, her questions to me, and the popularity of this column all underscore that so many of us struggle with being on time, and we want help!

Much of the feedback has been about realizing you are bothering others. So let me focus a little more sharply on the issue of selfishness. But before I do, let me stress that I’m not encouraging you to beat up on yourself. We are all selfish a lot of the time. What I’m encouraging is greater awareness.

Selfishness can take several forms. Many people who are late have a mixture of them.

Self-seeking is when you choose your own gain over the interests of others. It’s self-seeking behavior to maximize the productivity or convenience of your own time at the expense of other people’s schedules. Doctors, for example, do this on purpose, because their time has so much monetary value, and, well, they don’t care about yours — and, as with the chronically late, typically they get more and more behind schedule as the day progresses. (If you haven’t already figured this out, book doctor’s appointments in the morning, when they still might be close to their schedule.)

March 31st, 2010
A Good Friday Reflection

Though Good Friday is the most solemn day on the liturgical calendar, for much of my early life it was difficult for me to connect to Jesus and his experience, until my brother was diagnosed with cancer back when I was 19. My faith went through a wringer. All I could ask God was, why? I could no longer pray. Every time I tried, I would just cry. Through the wisdom of my spiritual director at the time, I was able to see that my tears, being the expression of my inner anguish, were probably the most honest prayer that I had yet uttered. I was in touch with my pain, and I was sharing it with God.
This experience helped me realize that where I can connect most intimately with Jesus is through my own human experience. I do not know his experience.…

March 29th, 2010
Devoting a day to faith, family, friends and food

When I was growing up, Sunday was a day for leisure and family. My atheist father did his version of worship: reading the Sunday New York Times from cover to cover while listening to classical music. We had special breakfast meals. (My favorite was ham and cheese pancakes.) In the afternoon there was sports on TV or tinkering at hobbies, and then at night we watched classic Sunday night TV together — especially Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney. Sometimes, when my older siblings were still around, we played family board games.
A day of rest has been part of the human routine since, perhaps, its beginning. You need look no further than Genesis 2:3, where God takes a deserved…

March 16th, 2010
My imperceptible and awkward conversion

Among the seekers at inquiry sessions and the candidates and catechumens in Sunday RCIA classes, one’s Personal Faith Journey is currency. It is asked for and shared like a business card whenever new faces attend, or even when the old ones feel like hearing it again. Even at the Rite of Acceptance, in front of a thousand people, the priest hands the shaking neophyte a microphone and asks, though not in so many words, What could have possibly brought you here?
My story, frustratingly, changes with each telling. I don’t rehearse it, and so I forget bits, I emphasize or de-emphasize incorrectly, and I’m sure I sound totally incoherent. Looking back (I am 25 now), I can only recall the dots, a few insights…

March 15th, 2010
Renewal is possible at any time

The vernal equinox, Easter, Passover and the Iranian New Year are approaching. And this column marks the one-year anniversary of What Works. So I want to talk about renewal, fresh starts. (But first, thank you from the depths of my heart for being a part of this joyful process with me this past year.)

So, fresh starts. There’s a simple little saying you hear around self-improvement circles all the time: You can start your day over at any time. It’s a very useful tool: If you are aggravated and feel like the day is off-track, just pause, take a break for five minutes, walk around the block, say a prayer or meditate, and start again.

It seems a harmless enough little aphorism, but behind it is a huge spiritual principle. We are not controlled by the past. We aren’t controlled by the last sentence we said — we can apologize for its harshness, or acknowledge a lie and correct it — and we’re not controlled by career choices, moves or other huge life choices we’ve made — we can look at the present situation and decide what is best now (for ourselves and those around us) and do that.

We often think we are controlled by the past, though, and this is the cause of terrible suffering.

March 11th, 2010
Making the case for moving beyond your own personal God

Everybody seems to be spiritual these days — from your college roommate, to the person in the office cubicle next to yours, to every other celebrity interviewed. But if “spiritual” is fashionable, “religious” is unfashionable. This is usually expressed as follow: “I’m spiritual but just not religious.” It’s even referred to by the acronym SBNR.
The thinking goes like this: being “religious” means abiding by arcane rules and hidebound dogmas, and being the tool of an oppressive institution that doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. (Which would have surprised many thinking believers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides,…

March 9th, 2010
Meet the followers of a dwindling ancient faith which they claim influenced Christianity

His admirers claim he was the first to teach monotheism, the existence of heaven and hell and the final triumph of good over evil. Plato and Aristotle revered his wisdom. Raphael included him among the world’s greatest philosophers in his The School of Athens… fresco. Some scholars insist that he had more influence on Western religion than any single man. Who was he? Moses? Mohammed? Christ? No.
His name was Zarathushtra, and he lived over 3,500 years ago, but his followers still honor him today while fearful for their faith’s survival over the next decades.
“We don’t seek converts,” insists Jamsheb Ravji, a Zoroastrian priest in Chicago. Ravji says converts would compromise

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